I will be upfront and say that I didn’t get into The Neighbour at all. It begins with a four year old girl called Lily being killed in a tragic accident by Luke, a married man and neighbour of Angie and her husband, Ryan. Straight away we can guess that there is ‘history’ between Luke and Angie, from Angie’s suggestive behaviour towards Luke, and Luke’s weak-mindedness which eventuates in the electrocution of the small child. Luke’s bizarre behaviour following the accident gives the game away and leads one to guess that he has a deeper connection to Angie, the mother of the dead girl, than is being told.
By the time it is revealed that Ryan is not the father it is too late because most readers will have suspected long before who the father actually is. The story seems to follow a very predictable story arc and the character arcs seem just as formulaic. The Neighbour is meant to be an examination of grief and how guilt tears people’s lives apart and makes them do strange things but at one point in Luke’s descent into madness and self-destruction I just wanted it all to end quickly for him. In fact I can’t say I felt anything for any of the characters in the story, apart from the dog.
There were a number of different style and dialogue issues throughout the book. The author’s use of flowery prose was quite jarring and brought me out of the story on more than a few occasions because it felt too much like ‘writing’. Some of the turns of phrases and metaphors seemed a little convoluted and out-of-place and could have done with being edited out. I struggled to become fully engaged and found myself having to go back and reread parts because of the excessive wordiness
Readers have become a lot more sophisticated in recent years and preferences have shifted away from the use of an omniscient narrator who gets involved in the story and can influence and interrupt its natural flow. In that sense I don’t think the author’s use of an omniscient narrator was a wise choice. The story would have been better served if it was told by Luke, the anti-hero. On a number of occasions the voice of the narrator came across as judgmental to the point where it felt like the author was hiding in the voice of the narrator and impinging on the story making the whole thing feel very stilted. The resulting head-hopping in many scenes left me wondering who was thinking and speaking at any given time.
The Neighbour is quite a dark and depressing tale and will probably keep most readers hooked even though it wasn’t the book for me. Thanks to Julie Proudfoot for the review copy.